Asian Insider June 28: Xi-Trump talks, India's Congress in crisis and robots

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


With the US-China trade dispute slowing global growth and disrupting supply chains, all eyes will be on the discussions due to take place between President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump tomorrow (Saturday), in Osaka, at 11:30am. But indications are that neither side is ready for a significant change in their positions. 

View from China: Danson Cheong, our China Correspondent, writes that the mood in China seems far from wanting to make any concession, if commentaries in local media are any indication. Chinese state media have kept up their criticism of the US, with the People's Daily calling the US "the international community's troublemaker" for pushing its unilateralist policies.

View from Washington: Trump in his latest remarks on Friday has said that he hoped for productive talks with Xi but added that he had not made any promises on a reprieve from escalating tariffs. Earlier, while heading to Osaka, Trump had said he might consider imposing additional US tariffs on goods from China, if there' was no progress on a trade deal during the talks. 

So, is there hope? Reports from Osaka say Chinese Vice Premier Liu He met Trump's Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer at the hotel where the American delegation was staying. But it is unclear what came about it. Meanwhile, Xi, in some of his diplomatic meetings has been complaining about Washington's 'bullying tactics'. And he reportedly told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he was opposed to any “external” influence on the two countries’ relationship.

Go deeper

Trump-Xi meet won’t yield a big deal

Why China’s not for turning, and its tiff with the US is going to change everything

US-China trade truce is becoming less – not more – likely


Quite a bit it seems. Take a look: 

With China: Xi and Shinzo Abe have vowed to turn a new page on the frosty ties between the two Asian economic superpowers, our Japan Correspondent Walter Sim shares. Over Kobe beef, Omi wagyu and Japan's highest-quality rice, during a 70 minute long dinner, the two leaders went beyond discussing regional and international issues to chatting about movies, football and the Olympics. And the two leaders agreed to 'have permanent and close communication as eternal neighbours'.

With United States: The two leaders, in their 45-minute talks, reaffirmed their commitment on the US-Japan coordination on shared security challenges, including North Korea and Iran. And Japanese Foreign Press Secretary Takeshi Osuga said the two countries will “continue to further strengthen the unshakeable alliance”, but did not go into the minutiae of the 1960 US-Japan security treaty that has been criticised this week by Trump.

With India: Abe met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for bilateral talks as well as a trilateral discussion with Trump. Modi and Abe reaffirmed their bilateral partnership and when they met Trump, the three leaders discussed the Indo-Pacific region, improving connectivity and infrastructure development.  

Will Abe manage a strong statement on trade too? The Japanese Prime Minister said he hoped the meeting would be one where “differences are not highlighted but common ground is found” in his opening remarks but the session fast became ground for a clash in values from trade to climate change and politics. The statement is due tomorrow (Saturday).  


India's grand old Congress party is in a crisis situation after its leader Rahul Gandhi resigned following the debacle of the party in recent elections. The party that has ruled the country for several decades since the country's independence won just 52 of the 542 seats in the polls. Gandhi's resignation has not been accepted. Our India Correspondent Nirmala Ganapathy says not a single name has been proposed this far as his replacement.  

Read more on India

India plans to offer incentives to companies moving from China

Clock ticking for India


Indonesia's Constitutional Court upheld the results of the April 17 presidential elections late on Thursday, while dismissing the petition filed by former army general Prabowo Subianto. This paves the way for President Joko Widodo to continue for a second term in office. But does it mean the end of the road for Prabowo? Unlikely, say most analysts. 

What to watch out for: Will he have his eyes on the next round of presidential elections due to take place in 2024? In April, Prabowo had said his campaign for the top job this year wouldn't be his last. But, Prabowo also has an offer from the president to be part of his government and he will have to decide if he wants to take it up or go his own way. Either ways, his decision will have a bearing on those who supported him for this year's campaign.


The number disturbs. A new report by Oxford Economics, a UK-based research firm, estimates that up to 20 million manufacturing jobs will be lost globally to robots by 2030. This, of course, will not be evenly spread and lower-skilled economies will be more vulnerable. Already. since 2,000 some 1.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost to robots, says the report. Of them, 550,000 are in China. 


Malaysia has pledged to decriminalise drug addiction and drug possession for personal use, in a move it calls a "game-changer policy". The health ministry said the move would be a critical next step towards "achieving a rational drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration". 

Two Canadian naval vessels were “buzzed” by Chinese fighter jets when they sailed through the East China Sea this week, the Canadian military has said.  A Canadian navy helicopter was also targeted by a laser detected from a nearby fishing boat. There were no injuries nor damage, but the revelations come amid heightened tensions between the two nations. 

The Chinese military will be handed prime Hong Kong waterfront land on Saturday (June 29), even as the city is rocked by anti-Beijing protests and just days before the anniversary of its return to China.


That's the wrap for today.  We're covering G-20 tomorrow and you can catch the latest on our website. Asian Insider will be back on Monday. Thanks for reading and have a good weekend. 

- Shefali